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Corresponding author. Tel: +55-21-35271954; fax: +55-21-35271236 E-mail address: [email protected] (B.A. Marinkovic)
Al2Mo3O12/polyethylene composites with reduced coefficient of thermal expansion
Alexandre Roberto Soares,Patricia I. Pontn,Lidija Mancic, Jos R. M. d'Almeida,
Carl P. Romao,, Mary Anne White,, , Bojan A. Marinkovic, *
Centro Universitrio de Volta Redonda UNIFOA, Av. Paulo Erlei Alves Abrantes
1325, Volta Redonda RJ, Brasil
Departamento de Engenharia de Materiais, Pontifcia Universidade Catlica de Rio de
Janeiro PUC-Rio, Rua Marqus de So Vicente 225, Gvea, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil
Institute of Technical Sciences of SASA, Knez Mihailova 35/IV, Belgrade, Serbia
Department of Chemistry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2,
Institute for Research in Materials, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H
Department of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences, Dalhousie University, Halifax,
Nova Scotia, B3H 4R2, Canada
Recently, polymer composites reinforced with lowfractions of thermomiotic
nanoceramics have triggered a lot of research. The efforts have been focused on
achieving considerable reduction of the coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) of
polymeric materials without deterioration of other physical properties. In this context,
polyethylene (PE) composites reinforced with different loads of Al2Mo3O12 nanofillers
(0.5 to 4 mass %) were fabricated by micro-compounding. To enhance the
interfacialinteraction between the two components chemical functionalization of
Al2Mo3O12 was performed with vinyltrimethoxysilane (VTMS) prior to micro-
compounding. Infrared spectroscopy and thermogravimetry demonstrated the successful
grafting of VTMS on the Al2Mo3O12 surface. The composites showed strongly
decreased CTEs, up to 46 % reduction for loadings of 4 mass % compared with neat PE,
suggestingintimate filler-matrix interactions. The variation of CTEs of the composites in
terms ofthe fillerfraction was successfully described by Turners model
allowingcalculation ofthe bulk modulus of monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 (13.6 2.6 GPa),in
agreement with the value obtained by an ultrasonic method. The thermal stability of
thecomposites was improved, although the addition of functionalized fillers decreased
the degree of crystallinity of the PE to a small extent. The Youngs modulus and yield
strength of the compositesincreased from6.6 to 19.1 % and 4.0 to 6.0 %, respectively,
supporting the existence of strong filler-matrix interactions, contributing to an efficient
load transfer. Finite element analysis of thermal stresses indicated absence of plastic
deformation of the matrix or fracture of thenanofillers, for a 100 K temperature drop.
Keywords: negative thermal expansion,ceramics, bulk modulus, thermoplastics,
chemical functionalization, nanomaterials.
Negative thermal expansion (NTE) ceramics, also known as thermomiotics,
began to attract significant attention in the 1990s due to newly discovered phases
exhibiting this uncommon thermal expansion feature [2-4]. Since then, considerable
research has been carried out to advance understanding of the physics underlying this
phenomenon [5-8], while parallel efforts have been made to transform this new class of
compounds into useful materials. There are two general tentative approaches to engineer
new materials based on thermomiotics. One route corresponds to the development of
bulk monolithic ceramics with well-defined CTEs, generally free of undesired
microstructural defects (microcracks) and frequently aiming at near zero values .
However, in some cases, such as Al2TiO5, microstructural design and microcrack
formationcan be used to advantage to produce low thermal expansion materials with
high thermal shock resistance . On the other hand, the second approach makes use
of the addition of thermomiotics, as the dispersed phase, in composites [11-29]. The
most common role of thermomiotics in composites is to control the CTE of the matrix
phase, which could be a metal, ceramic or polymer.
Thermoplastic polymers generally present very poor dimensional stability on
temperature variation. Therefore, the addition of inorganic fillers with low positive, near
zero or negative CTEs can mitigate high CTEs in polymers, while direct or silane
crosslinking strategies are also employed in order to improve their physical properties.
An example of the importance of controlling thermal expansionin polymers is observed
in the field of electronic packaging polymers, such as polystyrene and thermoset
epoxy resins , applied over integrated circuit chips to protect them from
environmental factors. These polymers are usually filled with a ceramic showing low
CTE and moderate thermal conductivity for the sake of reduction of thermal mismatch
between the packaging polymer and the substrate, while also increasing the thermal
conductance of the package layer. Polyethylene (PE) is one of the most used
thermoplastics. Geomembranes and pipes for water or natural gas
transmission/distribution are some examples of PE applications where the huge CTE (~
10-4 K-1) or migration of volatile organic components (VOCs) can induce material
damage orlead to poor performance [32, 33]. The list of dispersed phases studied for the
purpose of reduction of CTE of PE is extensive and includes clays, CaCO3, Si, fly ash,
CeO2, Sr2Al2SiO7, just to mention a few [34-39], but, so far, has not included
thermomiotics or low CTE materials.
Regarding thermomiotic fillers, there are only a few reports in the literature of
attempts to control the CTE of polymers, mostly thermosetting matrices.
Thesetentativeattemptsgenerally focus on ZrW2O8, both as micronic and nanometric
powders [11, 15-17, 23-25]. This is understandable considering the isotropic physical
properties of ZrW2O8and its strong negative CTE (~ - 9 x 10-6 K-1) over a wide
temperature range (0-1050K), which includes theoperational temperature range for
polymer components. This NTE material has been used for the reduction of CTE of
polyimide, polyester and epoxy resin [11,15-17,23,24], while, as far as the authors are
aware, there are no reports on its use in a PE matrix. On the other hand, the
thermomiotics and low CTE compounds from the A2M3O12 family are rarely cited in the
literature as the dispersed phases for controlling CTE in composites [14, 18, 19, 22,
40].An advantage of the compounds from this family is their wide chemical flexibility,
resulting in a variety of orthorhombic phases with CTEs ranging between 11 x 10-6
and 2 x 10-6 K-1 [8, 41, 42]. Even in the monoclinic phase, the magnitude of the CTE of
A2M3O12 compounds is low . It is also significant that some of the A2M3O12 compounds are routinely synthesized from inexpensive reagents,which is not the case
for ZrW2O8 and related compounds. There are currently just a few reports of the
application of A2M3O12 compounds as fillers in ceramic-ceramic (MoO3, ZrO2, ZrSiO4 and ZrW2O8 featuring as matrices) [14, 19, 22, 40]and ceramic-metal (Mg and Cu
matrices) [18, 40]composites. However, there are no reports on the use of A2M3O12 in
polymer matrices. The A2M3O12 compounds already tested in composites as dispersed
phases are Y2W3O12, Sc2W3O12, FexSc1-xW3O12 and ZrWP2O12, while the application of
Al2Mo3O12 was only reported in the monolithic form .
The principal purpose of this study was to examine the viability and potential
employment of a nanometric-sized A2M3O12 as a filler for thermoplastic matrices, added
in low amounts ( 4 mass %), to reduce the CTE of thermoplastic polymers without
provoking adverse effects on their mechanical properties and thermal stability. Because
of its technological appeal, PE has been chosen as the matrix, while Al2Mo3O12, a
reasonably well studied material[9, 43, 44], has been elected as the nanofiller, although
in the temperature range below 473 K it adopts the monoclinic form with a low positive
CTE . To enhance the interface interaction between the inorganic hydrophilic filler
and the hydrophobic polyolefin matrix, chemical functionalization of Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles was carried out with the aid of a bi-functional coupling agent,
vinyltrimethoxysilane (VTMS). One functional group of VTMS is hydrolysable
trimethoxysilane ((Si(OCH3)3)), which is capable of establishing primary bonds with
the surface of the inorganic filler, while the other functional group is a hydrophobic
vinyl group (CH2=CH-), capable of interacting physically (inter-molecular
entanglement) or chemically, through primary bonds created in the presence of peroxide
initiators, with PE chains. The composites were processedby micro-
compounding,includingextrusion and injection molding.
2. Materials and methods
Starting reagents for synthesis of Al2Mo3O12 nanopowder and its
functionalization include Al(NO3)3 9H2O (Isofar, 99 %), (NH4)6Mo7O24 4H2O (Isofar,
99 %), NaOH (Vetec, 99 %), vinyltrimethoxysilane C5H12O3Si (Evonik, 98%), acetic
acid (Vetec) and anhydrous ethanol (Sigma Aldrich). All reagents were used asreceived.
Granulated medium density PE (MR-435, Braskem) with a density of 0.934 gcm-3 and
melt flow index (MFI) of 4.0 g/10 min served as the matrix.
The synthesis and characterization of Al2Mo3O12 nanopowder through a co-
precipitation route is described in detail elsewhere.
Bulk Al2Mo3O12 pellets were prepared in order to measure their mechanical
properties using ultrasonic transduction. Thesynthesis was performed using a solid-state
reaction method, using Al2O3 (Sigma-Aldrich, 99.7 %) and MoO3 (Sigma-Aldrich, 99.5
%) as precursors. The precursor powders were mixed and mechanically activated in a
high-energy ball mill for 12 hours, followed by consolidation in a cylindrical die press
(15 mm diameter) under approximately 55 MPa of pressure and subsequent reactive
sintering for 24 h at 1050 K in air. The three resulting pellets had an average height of
4.78 mm and a density fraction 73 % of theoretical.
2.2 Functionalization of Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles with VTMS
The functionalization of Al2Mo3O12 was carried out using 51 mL of
ethanol/water 95:5 % v/v as the reaction medium. A mass of 1g of Al2Mo3O12,
obtained though the co-precipitation route and ground into a fine powder, was added to
aqueous ethanol and stirred for 10 min, while the pH was adjusted with acetic acid to
4.5-5.5. The suspension was placed in an ultrasonic bath for 1 h and the pH was
adjusted again to 4.5-5.5. VTMS was added dropwise until a mass ratio of 1:2 (VTMS:
Al2Mo3O12) was reached. This suspension was mechanically stirred at a frequency of
5000 min-1 (Ultra Turrax Ika T25 disperser) for 2 h, then ultrasonicated for a further 1 h.
The as-grafted Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles were washed three times with aqueous ethanol
to remove the excess VTMS, and then filtered and dried at 383 K for 2 h in an air-
circulating oven. Here the silanized Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles are referred to as VTMS-
g-Al2Mo3O12, where g denotes that VTMS was grafted onto the nanoparticle
2.3 Preparation of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites
VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites were prepared in a twin-screw micro-
extruder (DSM Xplore 5cc Microcompounder). The screw speed was 100 rpm, the
barrel temperature profile 443, 448 and 453 K (from the top to the bottom) and the
mixing time was approximately 5 min. The extrudate was fed to a micro-injection
molding machine (DSM Xplore 5.5 cc) to obtain ASTM D638-10 tensile specimens.
The injection pressure was set to 7 bar. The melt and mold temperatures were kept at
448 K and 353 K, respectively. To investigate the effect of different loads of VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12 on CTE, thermal stability and mechanical properties of PE,composites
containing nominally0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and 4.0 mass % of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 were
prepared and compared with neat PE specimens.
2.4.1 Al2Mo3O12 powder
The Al2Mo3O12 powder obtained through co-precipitation was characterized by
X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD) on a Siemens D5000 using CuK radiation in steps of
0.02o (8 s per step) from 10o to 60o (2 theta) to determine phase composition of the
product and to evaluate the average crystallite size of Al2Mo3O12. Powder Diffraction
File 2 Release 2011(PDF-2) was used for crystal phase identification, while Topas 4.2
was used for LeBail analysis. The direct convolution approach, embedded in Topas 4.2,
has been used in order to separate physical from instrumental contributions within the
experimental pattern. The instrumental contribution has been described through the
Fundamental Parameter Approach (FPA), while the physical (microstructural)
contribution was modelled by two Voigt functions. The reported crystal size parameter
is LVOL-IB obtained from the integral breadth of the Voigt function that describes
crystallite size contribution to the physical broadening. This approach for determination
of crystallite sizes is known as the Balzar method.
Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was performed on a JEOL-2010
microscope operating at 200 kV using a Gatan CCD camera. TEM specimens were
prepared by dispersing the powder samples in isopropyl alcohol via ultrasonic treatment
and then dropped onto a porous carbon film supported by a copper grid. Powder
samples, following pretreatment at 393 K under vacuum (50 mTorr), were characterized
by N2 adsorption at 77 K on a Micromeritics TriStar 3000V6.03 instrument. Specific
surface area was calculated using the BrunauerEmmettTeller (BET) equation in the
P/Po range of 0.060.21.
2.4.2 Bulk Al2Mo3O12
The transverse and longitudinal velocities of sound in three Al2Mo3O12 pellets
were measured ultrasonically using a Panametrics 25D Ultrasonic Thickness Gauge
with Panametrics shear-wave couplant and glycerol (longitudinal-wave couplant). The
measured velocities of sound were corrected for porosity as follows :
where is the measured velocity, 0 is the corrected, fully densified, velocity, and p is
the pore fraction.
Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) was performed in the range
4000 to 500 cm-1, using pellets with the addition of dried IR-grade KBr,in a Perkin-
Elmer Spectrum 100 FT-IR spectrometer with a resolution of 0.5 cm-1.
Thermogravimetric analyses (TGA) were carried out on a Perkin-Elmer
Simultaneous Thermal Analyzer (STA-6000). About 5 mg of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 was
added to an alumina pan (180 L) and heated in N2 gas flux (50 mLmin-1) in the
temperature range between 298 and 853 K, at a heating rate of 10 Kmin-1. The
thermogravimetric balance was previously calibrated in N2 gas flux (50 mL min-1) in the
range between 298 K and 1173 K using a 15 mg of CaC2O4 H2O standard sample,
supplied by Perkin-Elmer. The buoyancy effect, observed in TG curves (as a small mass
gain, < 0.1 mass %, at temperatures lower than 330 K),was partially corrected by blank
tests. Both analyses, FTIR and TGA, were also performed on Al2Mo3O12 powder before
grafting, for comparison.
2.4.4 VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites
Dilatometric curves of neat PE and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites were
determined in air atmosphere using a NETZSCH dilatometer DIL 402C in the
temperature range from 298 to 373 K with a heating rate of 10 Kmin-1. The specimens
for dilatometry were prismatic rods (3.3 mm 3.2 mm 11 mm) manufactured from
the injection molded specimens. Each material, neat PE and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE
composites, was tested using threeseparate samples. The instrument was assessed for
accuracy using an -alumina rod supplied by NETZSCH. The accuracy of L/Lo (thermal strain; Lo is the original sample length) is ~ 1 % for the dilatometer used .
TGA and differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) analyses were carried out on
the equipment described in section 2.4.3 using the same conditionsand corrections, but
in the temperature range 298 to 923 K.Simultaneous Thermal Analyzer (STA-6000)
was calibrated for temperature and enthalpy using ~ 5 mg of indium and silver standard
samples, supplied by Perkin-Elmer. TG curves of neat PE and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE
composites are reported in the Online Resource.
Tensile tests were carried out on ASTM D638-10 tensile specimens, at room
temperature, on an EMIC Universal Testing Machine (model DL 1000) with the
crosshead speed separation of 30 mm/min. Each material (neat PE and VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12/PE composites) was tested using sixseparate specimens.
2.4.5 Finite element analysis
Finite element analysis (FEA) was used to assess the thermal stress that could be
expected in VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites upon cooling. The COMSOL
Multiphysics 4.4 software package was used to perform the analysis. The model
geometry chosen was that of nine spherical filler particles of monoclinic Al2Mo3O12
embedded at random positions in a cube of PE, where the volume fraction of filler was
varied to match the experimental compositions.A mesh of tetrahedral elements was
generated in COMSOL and the mesh size used was shown by a mesh convergence
study to produce results convergent to within 1%.
The VTMS grafting was assumed, based on the experimental results described
below, to produce perfect interfaces between matrix and filler.Both Al2Mo3O12 and PE
were treated as linear elastic materials. Assumption of perfect interfaces and linear
elasticity leads to the calculated stress being a conservative estimate; the stress in the
actual composite could be reduced by imperfect interfaces or ductility. Therefore, the
results of the finite element analysis should be treated as qualitatively accurate.Due to
the low volume fractions of filler used, the size, shape, and distribution of the particles
did not substantially influence the results and these parameters were not varied as part
of this study. The boundary conditions used were a temperature drop of 100 K on all
sides of the material and roller boundaries on three perpendicular sides.
3.1 Al2Mo3O12 powder
The experimental XRPD pattern (Figure 1) confirmed that the co-precipitation
route resulted in a single-phase powder, since all diffraction lines correspond to
monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 (PDF: 01-089-8579). However, the well-defined diffraction
lines of monoclinic Al2Mo3O12were overlaid on a broader diffraction pattern. A
thorough examination of the powder by TEM revealed an intimate mixture of well-
defined nanometric crystals (50 to 200 nm) with much smaller nanocrystallites(ca. 10
nm); see Figure 2. (A few other TEM images presented in Online Resource illustrate the
presence of larger particles.)This observation was confirmed more quantitatively by
applying LeBail analysis considering two Al2Mo3O12 phases with the same monoclinic
structure but different mean crystal sizes (Figure 1). Only this fitting approach resulted
in good agreement with the experimental pattern, giving average crystal sizes of 70 nm
for the well-defined Al2Mo3O12 and 10 nm for the broader Al2Mo3O12 diffraction
pattern. BET analysis of N2 adsorption indicated a specific surface area of 8.4 m2g-
1.Considering a crystallographic density of 3.495 g cm-3 for monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 ,
an average (spherical) particle size of ~ 100 nm was calculated from the observed
specific surface area (8.4 m2 g-1), which is somewhat larger than the crystallite sizes
obtained from XRPD data.
Fig.1Experimental XRPD patternof monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 (red dotted line), the pattern
fit bythe Le Bail method (black line) and the difference plot (green line)
Fig.2 TEM images of Al2Mo3O12 nanometric powdershowing a mixture of crystal sizes
(a) from 50 to 200 nm(arrows indicate faces of larger particles)and (b) ~10 nm
3.2 Bulk Al2Mo3O12
Following correction for porosity (Eq. 1), the longitudinal velocity of sound of
monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 was determined as 3.29 0.16 m ms1and the transverse
velocity of sound was determinedas 2.29 0.22 m ms1. Using the reported theoretical
density of monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 of 3.495 g cm3, these values correspond to a bulk
modulus of 13.5 1.3 GPa and a shear modulus of 18.2 0.7 GPa. Interestingly, this
indicates that monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 has a near-zero Poisson ratio, specifically 0.036
FTIR spectra of pristine Al2Mo3O12 and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 are presented for
comparison in Figure 3.
Fig.3 FTIR spectra of (a) pristine Al2Mo3O12 and (b) VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12
The spectrum of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 shows four absorption bands at 2920,
2855, 1262 and 1154 cm-1 that suggest grafting of VTMS onto Al2Mo3O12. The bands at
2920 and 2855 cm-1 are generally assigned to stretching vibration modes () of CH3 in
(OC2H5) and CH2 in (CH=CH2) , respectively, while the band at 2920 cm-1 is also
attributed to stretching vibration modes of CH3 in (OCH3) [49, 50]. However, these two
bands at 2920 and 2855 cm-1are also faintly observable in the spectrum of pristine
Al2Mo3O12 and are attributed to organic surface contamination . The band at 1262
cm-1 appears only in the VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 spectrum and is assigned to the in-plane
CH bendingmode () in (CH=CH2) . In addition, there is a band at 1154 cm-1
attributed to (Si-O-Si) , proving the occurrence of oligomerization between silanol
reaction groups grafted on the Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles.
From the TGA results, a total mass loss of ~ 1.1 mass% of pristine Al2Mo3O12
from room temperature up to 853 K (Figure 4) was observed and is attributed to
physically adsorbed water (moisture) and primary bonded hydroxyl groups.
Fig.4 TG curves of (a) pristine Al2Mo3O12 and (b) VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12
It is considered that desorption of moisture takes place up to ~ 453 K (Figure 4),
while above this temperature the dehydration of primary bonded hydroxyl groups is the
predominant mass loss process . On the other hand, the total mass loss of VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12 is ~ 0.5 mass % more than for pristine Al2Mo3O12 for the same temperature
interval (298 K 853 K), corroborating grafting of VTMS on Al2Mo3O12. It is worth
noting that up to 453 K (see Figure 4) the mass loss of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 is lower
than for pristine Al2Mo3O12, indicating that the moisture content in VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12
is lower due to its more hydrophobic nature.Furthermore, the mass loss between 453 K
and 853 K (~ 1.2 mass %) is predominantly due to the release of the VTMS fragments,
possibly vinyl groups, grafted on Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles . This could be indirect
evidence for primary bonding between Si from reactive silanol  and the surface of
Al2Mo3O12 through Si-O-Al and/or Si-O-Mo linkages. The successive processes of
hydrolysis, oligomerization and grafting, through the condensation of VTMS onto the
surface of Al2Mo3O12 nanoparticles, are presented in Figure 5.
Fig.5Scheme of (a) hydrolysis of VTMS; (b) oligomerization of reactive silanol
molecules; (c) formation of hydrogen bonds between silanol oligomers and Al2Mo3O12
nanoparticles and (d) grafting of VTMS on Al2Mo3O12 surface through primary bonds
3.4 VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites: Coefficient of thermal expansion, thermal
stability and mechanical properties
CTEs of neat PE and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites were calculated from
the slopes of the respective thermal strain curves in the temperature range between 303
K and 373 K (Table 1).
Table 1. Thermal properties and degree of crystallinity of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites with different filler contents. Nominal filler contents are presented; TGA shows inhomogeneity of the order of 0.5 mass %, regarding to nominal contents, for the samples used in dilatometry. CTE values are standard deviations based on triplicate measurements.
%) CTE (x10-4 K-1)
Mass loss (%) up to
Mass loss (%) up to
673 K T10(K)
Tm (K) Xc (%)
0.0 2.290 0.0005 0.90 1.95 722 749 414 76 0.5 1.98 0.26 0.07 0.88 728 751 415 73 1.0 2.12 0.31 0.13 1.02 726 750 414 70 2.0 1.80 0.29 0.02 0.84 727 751 415 73 3.0 1.78 0.04 0.0 0.91 721 749 412 74 4.0 1.23 0.11 0.0 0.53 729 752 413 75
Large reductions of CTE, in comparison to neat PE, have been shown for almost
all VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE blends (0.5 - 4 mass %of filler), reaching a reduction of ~
46% for a loading of 4 mass %. The observed dependence of the average experimental
CTEs (Table 1) and volume fraction of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 filler (Figure 6) can be
successfully described by Turners model:
where Km and Kf are the bulk moduli of PE (matrix) and Al2Mo3O12 (filler), is the
volume fraction of filler, and c, mand f are theCTEs of the composite, PE (matrix)
and Al2Mo3O12 (filler), respectively. Other models, such as the rule of mixtures, and
those of Schapery, Vo or Kerner, have not been able to model the experimental
dependence on average CTEs of the composites on volume fraction of filler.
Fig.6Average experimental CTEs of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites, with standard
deviation bars, as a function ofnominal volume fraction of filler(black squares) fitted by
Turners model (red curve). Standard deviation bar for neat PE is smaller than the
The literature valueof f = 9.5 x 10-6 K-1was considered for monoclinic
Al2Mo3O12, while m (PE) was taken from Table 1 (m = 2.29 x 10-4 K-1). The bulk
modulus of PE (Km) was estimated as 0.278 GPafrom the mean value of Youngs
modulus (Em = 0.278 GPa) measured for neat PE (Figure 7), assuming:
where m is shear modulus of matrix, and
Considering these values it is possible, using the Turner model, to determine the
bulk modulus of monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 (Kf) as 13.6 2.6 GPa, which agrees with the
ultrasonic results within the margin of error (cf. 3.2), validating the use of Turners
Thermal stabilities of neat PE and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites have
been evaluated from mass loss curves through parameters such as mass loss at 573 K,
mass loss at 673 K, temperature corresponding to 10% mass loss (T10) and temperature
corresponding to 50% mass loss (T50), as summarized in Table 1. Although the mass
losses of neat PE at 573 and 673 K are low, 0.90 and 1.95 mass % respectively, the
mass losses for all VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE compositesare far lower. T10 and
T50parameters of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites are higher than for neat PE,
however, the filler impact on these two parameters was not as significant as observed
for the mass losses until 673 K. On the other hand, the effect of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 filler on melting temperature (Tm) of the composites, as evaluated by DSC curves, was
negligible (Table 1). To evaluate the effect of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 filler on degree of
crystallinity (Xc) of PE matrix, enthalpy change of melting (H) was determined for all
composites and their degrees of crystallinity were calculated considering H* = 273Jg-1
for completely crystallized PE using:
where is the mass fraction of filler.
This evaluation showed that VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites lost some crystallinity,
from ~76% for neat PE to ~70% for VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composite reinforced with
1 mass % of filler.
Youngs moduli, yield strengths and yield strains of composites were determined
from stress-strain curves and plotted in Figure 7. The stiffness and resistance to plastic
deformation of the newcomposites both increased, as evidenced by an increase in
Youngs modulus, between 6.6 and 19.1 %, and yield strength, between 4 and 6 %. On
the other hand, yield strain decreased between 8 and 12 % in comparison to neat PE.
Fig.7 (a) Youngs modulus; (b) Strength and strain at yield point of VTMS-g-Al2Mo-
3O12/PE composites as a function ofnominal filler content
FEAwas used to calculate the thermal stresses experienced in the composites
following a 100 K temperature drop, near room temperature. Cooling of the composites
induces compressive thermal stresses in the VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 and tensile thermal
stresses in the PE matrix due to their mismatched CTEs. The compressive stress in the
filler particles reached a maximum of 22 MPa, and was invariant with the filler loading.
The maximum tensile and shear stresses in the PE matrix are shown in Figure 8. The
maximum tensile stress increased approximately linearly with filler loading, while the
maximum shear stress increasednonlinearly.
Fig.8 Maximum tensile and shear stresses in the PE matrix as a function of filler
content. An estimated error due to finite mesh size of 1% is shown.
The CTE of the compositeon addition of filler was calculated to decrease only
slightly, but more than would be predicted by the rule of mixtures. The discrepancy
between the finite element models and the experimental result is possibly due to the
finite size of the model, which prevents accurate modelling of the constraint of the
thermal expansion of the matrix due to the filler since the bulk of the matrix material is
The mechanical properties of thermomiotics and low CTE materials still need to
be more thoroughly studied, sincethis knowledge is fundamental for many potential
applications. Thus far elastic constants and related properties such as bulk modulus (K)
have been determined for several compounds from the A2M3O12 family, in both
orthorhombic and monoclinic structures[55-58]. Our analysis of experimental c versus
volume filler fraction in terms of Turners model (Figure 6) and calculationsbased on
the ultrasonic testsgave a bulk modulus of 13.6 2.6 GPa and 13.5 1.3 GPa,
respectively, for monoclinic Al2Mo3O12, very close to the bulk moduli of monoclinic
Sc2W3O12, Sc2Mo3O12, In2W3O12 and Zr2WO4(PO4)2 of 11.8 0.8 GPa, 16 1 GPa, 13
2 GPa and 17 2 GPa, respectively, as determined from high pressure X-ray or neutron
diffraction data.Only the bulk modulus of monoclinic Al2W3O12 was reported to be
higher (28 1 GPa), compared to other monoclinic phases. It is relevant for our
study that Watanabe et al., estimated the bulk modulus of Zr2WO4(PO4)2 at 18 GPa,
independently from theBirch-Murnaghan equation of state analysis of high-pressure X-
ray diffraction data , and by applying Hashins model on the relationship between
experimental Zr2WO4(PO4)2/Mgcomposite bulk modulus and Zr2WO4(PO4)2 filler
volume fraction, with excellent agreement for the two approaches. Monoclinic phases of
the A2M3O12 family are much softer than the corresponding orthorhombic phases, the
ones that present NTE, withbulk moduli varying between 32 GPa for Sc2W3O12 andSc2Mo3O12, and 48 GPa to 49 GPa for Al2W3O12 and Zr2WO4(PO4)2,
respectively[55-58]. In comparison, the bulk modulus of cubic -ZrW2O8, the most
studied thermomiotic filler, is much higher (~ 74 GPa). Although monoclinic
A2M3O12 phases have surprisingly low bulk moduli, even significantly lower than
already soft NTE orthorhombic phases, note that, for example, Al2Mo3O12 possesses a
bulk modulus two orders of magnitude higher than polyethyleneused in this study,
estimatedto be ~ 0.278 GPa. Therefore, in accordance to the Turner model, which
considers perfect interfaces between the two components , the high relative bulk
modulus of Al2Mo3O12 in comparison to the bulk modulus of PE would lead to a
relevant reduction of composite CTE. Strong reduction of the CTE of the composite (as
high as 46%) reached using filler contents not higher than 4 mass % (1.1 vol %) is a
possible indication of efficient filler-matrix interaction through physical entanglements.
It is worth noting that such a high reduction of composite CTE,obtained with low filler
volume fractions, is reached in spite of the small decrease in crystallinity of the PE
matrix with addition of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12fillers (Table 1), indicating that the fillers
thermal and mechanical properties, as well as the interfaces, dictate the overall
These findings underline the importance of well-dispersed nanoparticles in the
matrix as well as achievement of strong filler-matrix interactions, since the fulfillment
of these conditions results in increased density of well-bonded interfaces in the
composite per unit of volume, when compared to traditional non-functionalized micron
size fillers. For instance, Dey and Tripathi  reported the influence of Si micron
sized, chemically untreated, powder on thermal properties of Si/PE composites.
Although the CTEof the Si/PE composite decreased with increased volume percentage
of Si, the effect of filler content, as high as 20 vol %, on CTE of the composite was
lower than that reached in VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites with a volume filler
content of 1.1 vol % (4 mass %). In agreement with the Si/PE result, Anjana et al.,
achieved similar reduction of CTE to that reached here for 1.1 vol % VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12/PE composite by adding 30 vol % of non-functionalized micron size CeO2 to the PE matrix. On the other hand, Sahebian et al.reached a more pronounced
decrease of CTE by adding to PE matrix a lower percentage (10 vol %) of nanometric
CaCO3 that had been pre-treated with stearic acid. They also observed that the variation
of mean size of CaCO3 nanoparticles mayplay a role in the CTE of CaCO3/PE
composites; i.e., nanopowders with smaller mean particle size act more efficiently to
decrease the CTE of a composite than do nanopowders with higher mean particle size.
However, it is relevant to notice that Sharma et al. inferred that the CTE of
ZrW2O8/polyimide composites was independent of the size of ZrW2O8 filler. They
showed that the 5 vol % loading of nanometric or micronic ZrW2O8 fillers to polyimide
(PI) matrix resulted in comparable CTE values. Sullivan and Lukehart came to the
same conclusion for the effect of 0.8 and 1.7 vol % loadings of nanometric and micronic
ZrW2O8 fillers in a polyimide matrix. Sharma et al.did not observe any additional
effect of ZrW2O8 nanofillers functionalized with 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane or
ZrW2O8 fillers functionalized with 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane/PI oligomer on
reduction of the composite CTE for loadings between 5 and 15 vol % when compared to
non-functionalized ZrW2O8 nanofillers. Therefore, those authors suggested that a
mechanism different from that usually ascribed for enhancement of mechanical and
thermal properties of nanocomposites, such as good filler-matrix interaction, is
responsible for governing thermal expansion in nanocomposites.
The thermal stability of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites was significantly
increased at lower temperatures (< 673 K,Table 1), probably due to the joint action of
(i) low permeability of fillers leading to a more tortuous path of diffused species,
thereby decreasing the rate of gas evolution, and (ii) reduced movement of polymer
chains due to the interactions between VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 and the PE matrix .
Neat PE lost ~ 0.9 mass % on heating to 573 K, while the corresponding VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12/PE composites were essentially completely stable up to this temperature.
Further temperature increases up to 673 K provoked a total mass loss of neat PE of ~ 2
mass %, while mass losses of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 composites were kept between 0.5
mass % (for 4 mass % VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12) and ~ 1 mass % (for1 mass % of VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12). In comparison, Chrissafis et al.reported a mass loss of 1 mass % up to
548 K for cSiO2 /PE composite with 2.5 mass % of filler (cSiO2: functionalized SiO2
nanofillers). Chrissafis and Bikiarisreported that the addition of 2.5 mass % of
montmorillonite nanoclays (MMT) or multiwalled carbon nanotubes (MWCNT) to PE
matrix resulted in the same level of mass loss as their neat PE up to 573 K, 0.5 mass
The origin of thermal stability of nanocomposites with polymer matrices at high
temperatures is not clear-cut since discrepant results have been reported, including
decreases of thermal stability, especially for nanoclay fillers, due to the activation of
different thermal degradation promoter mechanisms. In the case of PE athigh
temperatures (> 723 K), where the PE matrix degradation rate is high, a small increase
of stability is confirmed, i.e., T10 and T50 were at most 6K and 3K higher, respectively,
for VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites with respect to neat PE. Here the increase of
thermal stability at high temperatures (>723 K) is very similar to the value (~ 4K)
observed by Chrissafis et al.for a cSiO2 /PE composite with 2.5 mass % of filler,
judging from the temperature at which PE decomposition rate is highest. Similarly, a
rise of T10 of ~ 10 K was identified for the loadings < 5 mass % of non-functionalized
micron-sized ZrW2O8 in PI matrix . However, much higher increases in T10 and T50,
25K and 21K, respectively, with respect to neat PE, were reported by Liao and
Tjongfor 4 mass % VTMS-g-Al2O3/PE composite. Therefore, it seems that low or
negative CTE fillers, like the majority of other inorganic fillers, do not promote thermal
degradation of polyolefins or polyimide matrices, and are capable of increasing their
thermal stability at high temperatures. In comparison, the thermal stability at high
temperatures of silane-crosslinked PE could increase as much as 35 Kas reported by
Aizan and Rahman. Still, it is worth noting that in the future it would be relevant to
understand the effect of nanofillers onevolution of VOCs from PE matrices modified by
nanofillers, since the use ofPE for water pipe applications is negatively affected by the
migration of VOCs to drinking water.
The degree of crystallinity of PE was little reduced with increasing content of
VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12nanofillers (Table 1), from 76% (neat PE) to 70% (1mass %
VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composite).Although it is commonly expected that nanofillers
act only as heterogeneous nucleation sites, increasing the crystalline content of PE
matrix, a steric hindrance effect of nanofillers on chain ordering, resulting in reduction
of the crystallinity degree of PE has been reported[62, 64-66]. The hindrance effect of
MWCNT, pristine and organofilized MMT , nano-SiO2 and functionalized
nano-SiO2and teak wood flour on crystallization of PE is explained by the
obstruction of fillers in PE chain ordering. Our results suggest that the same steric
hindrance mechanism is responsible for the small reduction of the degree of crystallinity
in thePE matrix when VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 is added.The steric hindrance mechanism is
actually a well-known tool in polymer processing, used to inhibit crystallinity of
elastomers through addition of bulky methyl groups, rather than nanoparticles as here.
Also, silane crosslinking of PE, using coupling agents such as VTMS, reduces the
crystallinity of crosslinked PE due to steric hindrance. Therefore, functionalized
nanoparticles could serve as defect centers impeding chain ordering and, thus, reduce
crystallinity of the PE matrix.
Melting temperature (Tm) was insensitive to the addition of nanofillers in
polymeric matrices. Our findings showed negligible variation of melting temperatures
of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites compared with Tmof neat PE (Table 1). Many
other authors noticed asimilar lack of response of Tmin different composites with PE
matrix and nanofillers. The list of fillers added to PE matrix that do not affect melting
temperature of composite is extensive. For example, Chrissafis et al. reported this
behavior for MWCNT, pristine and organofilized MMT, nano-SiO2 and functionalized
nano-SiO2 , Li et al. for MWCNT, Liao and Tjong for Al2O3 and VTMS-g-
Al2O3, Kanagaraj et al.for MWCNT and Zebarjad et al. for CaCO3. The
previously discussed decrease of crystallinity of the PE matrix in VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12/PE composites could reduce the sizes of crystal lamellae inPE spherulites.
On the other hand, it is known that reduction of the average sizes of crystal lamellae
decreases Tm of polymers. Therefore, it can be rationalized that negligible variation of
Tm in VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites is possibly due to the simultaneous action of
two opposing effects: (i) size reduction of crystal lamellae inside spherulites causing a
decrease of Tm and (ii) efficient filler-matrix interaction through physical entanglements
contributing to an increase of Tm.
The mechanical properties of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites, such as
Youngs modulus and yield strength, were improved at room temperature in comparison
to neat PE (Figure 7). The increase of Youngs modulus (between 6.6 to 19.1 %), and
yield strength (between 4 and 6 %) are a consequence of much higher elastic constants
of monoclinic Al2Mo3O12 in comparison to PE, but principally arises from the efficient
load transfer from the PE matrix to the filler owing to the high density of strong filler-
matrix interfaces, reached through physical entanglements. It is worth noting that the
overall Youngs modulus and yield strength of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites
increased despite the reduction in the degree of crystallinity of PE matrixfor
thecomposites, since it is well established that the increase of amorphous content in PE
should lead to a decrease of mechanical properties of the matrix at the temperatures
above the glass transition temperature (~ 163 K for PE). However, in VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12/PE composites the intimate interfacespermit load transfer, overriding the
impact of decreasing crystallinity of PE matrix. On the other hand, there are opposite
examples in the literature such as the report of Li et al. which attributed the
reduction of Youngs modulus of MWCNT/PE composites to the decrease of
crystallinity of PE matrix.
The reduction of yield strain,as observed for VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE
composites (Figure 7),has been reported for other composites with polymeric and
metallic matrices. For example, Sharma et al. reported a strong decrease of yield
strain for 5 to 15 mass % additions inside PI matrix of ZrW2O8 nanofillers
functionalized with 3-aminopropyltriethoxysilane or with 3-
aminopropyltriethoxysilane/PI oligomer. It should be noticed that even the addition of
ductile Cu particles in a PE matrix resultedin reduction of yield strain of Cu/PE
The thermal stresses calculated by the finite element method for VTMS-g-
Al2Mo3O12/PE composites following cooling by 100 K(Fig. 8) were below the yield
strength of the PE matrix (Fig. 7b) as well as the level that would be expected to affect
the Al2Mo3O12filler. Therefore, the composites would be expected to be
mechanically stable following thermal shock of 100 K or less, due to the absence of
plastic deformation of the matrix or fracture of the Al2Mo3O12 filler.However, addition
of Al2Mo3O12 in amounts considerably above 1.1 vol % might increase the thermal
stress in the matrix above the yield strength of the PE due to the nonlinear increase in
the thermal shear stress in the matrix. Although there is considerable CTE mismatch
between PE and Al2Mo3O12, the low stiffness of the matrix reduces the magnitude of the
thermal stresses considerably, in addition to allowing reduction of the CTE by addition
of only a small amount of filler.
This study investigated the viability of employinga nanometric A2M3O12-
typecompound, in low loadings ( 4 mass %), as a filler in a thermoplastic polymer in
order to achieve considerable reduction of the matrix CTE, without causing adverse
effects on themechanical properties and thermal stability. Nanometric Al2Mo3O12, in the
monoclinic form, grafted with VTMS, abi-functional coupling agent, was added to a PE
matrix through melt-compounding extrusion and VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites
were fabricated by injection molding.
The as-prepared VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites exhibited strong decrease
of their CTEs, reaching 46 % reduction for loadings of 4 mass % (1.1 vol %). The
results suggest efficient filler-matrix interaction through physical entanglements.
Experimentally obtained CTEs of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites were
successfully described by Turners model and the bulk modulus of monoclinic
Al2Mo3O12 was calculated to be 13.6 2.6 GPa, in good agreement with the bulk
modulus of 13.5 1.3GPa obtained by ultrasonic testing.
Thermal stability of VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12/PE composites was significantly
increased at lower temperatures (< 673 K) in comparison to neat PE, while at high
temperatures the increase was small, but not negligible. The degree of crystallinity of
PE decreased a small extent with VTMS-g-Al2Mo3O12 loading. However, the increased
amount of amorphous PE did not result in a significant change in melting temperature
or deterioration of mechanical properties, the latter as judged by the Youngs modulus
and yield strength. Actually, the Youngs modulus increased by 6.6 to 19.1 %, while the
yield strength increased 4to 6 % owing to efficient load transfer from PE matrix to the
fillers, because of the high density of strong filler-matrix interfaces.
This research shows the importance of further studies of low or negative
B.A. Marinkovic and J.R.M. dAlmeida are grateful to CNPq (National Council
for Scientific and Technological Development) for a Research Productivity Grants.
Patricia I. Pontn is also grateful to CNPq for scholarship.M.A. White acknowledges
support of NSERC through the Discovery Grants program. We thank J.W. Zwanziger
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